It’s time to sign-up for a summer CSA share! You can find out more about the CSA and get a signup form with all the details on the CSA page. We are planning on offering Fall/Winter CSA shares this year, but are not yet accepting signups for that option.
Just because it is winter doesn’t mean that we’re done for the season. We have been selling at the Northampton Winter Farmers Market for the past month, bringing beef, lamb, eggs, yarn, winter squash, beets, onions, shallots, salad greens, cooking greens, black beans, and wheat berries. The market is in the basement of Thornes, on Saturdays from 9am to 2pm. There are many other farms at the market also, with an impressive array of meat and vegetables, as well as cheese, bread, and even wine!
For our hilltown neighbors, our farmstand will be open on Friday December 16th and Friday December 23rd from 3-6pm. Stop by to get a holiday roast! We are also open by appointment during the winter.
Well, this spring is just moving right along. CSA distributions start on Monday! We haven’t quite finished our new farmstand, so unfortunately will be having to use the tent again for the first few distributions. But the farmstand is very close to being finished, so if we are able to find any time to work on it, we should be able to switch over into the new building fairly soon.
Finding time is getting to be a bit tricky. We (Rachel & Tevis) have a new baby – our son Owen was born a week ago, on the morning of Saturday, May 21st. The birth went well and everyone is doing great. Anona is very happy to be a big sister.
Three Farmer’s Markets per week while trying to get all our crops planted keeps us plenty busy on the farm. This spring has (up until the past couple days) been on the cool and wet side, and a lot of fieldwork has been delayed by rainy weather. We are hoping to get back on track this week, if the weather stays agreeable. Some of our fields have been too wet to till, so we’ve had to move things around on our field plan in order to get crops into the ground in a timely fashion. Some crops we were planning to do for “fun” (like dry beans) might get squeezed out by the more valuable crops, if the fields don’t dry out soon.
We are also getting into haying season (as if we needed something else to keep busy), so hoping that some of this humidity and threats of thunderstorms will clear out so we can mow some hay without fear of it getting rained on.
We are switching our laying flock over to Organic grain. This is something that we have thought about doing off and on for as long as we have been farming, and we have decided that the time has come to make the switch.
We were using locally produced chicken feed from two farms, Maple Acres in Chesterfield and R & R Wirtes from Lanesboro, MA (near Pittsfield). Both farms grow grain, but also buy in a significant percentage of grain to supply their feed businesses. We feel strongly that it is important to support local farmers and small businesses, and so while we had concerns about bought-in commodity corn and soy, we felt that it was better to source our chicken feed as locally as possible.
Grain from these two local feed suppliers cost significantly more than commodity grain from a major corporation, such as Blue Seal, but still cost significantly less than organic grain. Part of our previous decision to use local, non-organic grain was the desire to keep our egg price lower.
Why are we switching to Organic now? There have long been concerns about negative health effects from GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). We knew that it was just a matter of time before problems surfaced. Well, that time is up. Scientists recently identified a tangible threat, and, frankly, it’s scary. What’s even more scary (though not surprising) is that the USDA is completely ignoring their research.
Researchers at Purdue University identified a new pathogen of a type that has never been seen before. It appears to them to be a micro-fungus – a fungal organism that is the same size as a medium sized-virus (which, if we remember our high-school biology lessons, are small enough to penetrate cell walls). And not only is this type of organism previously unknown, but this micro-fungus appears to be pathogenic in a wide array of both plant and animal species. Very very few pathogens affect both plants and animals.
What is the GMO link? This pathogen was identified in, and seems to mainly be associated with, Roundup-Ready crops. It is too early to tell whether it is the Roundup that it likes or some genetic trait in the GMOs. But the researchers found that it is associated with the GMO Roundup-Ready trait, and the pathogen was found in crops, feed, and in livestock fed feed containing GMOs. Read more about this pathogen here:
For those who aren’t aware, Roundup Ready Corn and Soy are widespread in the commodity grain system, and so anything containing corn or soy from a commercial, industrial source (i.e., the grocery store), unless it is Certified Organic or tested and labelled as GMO-free, should be assumed to contain GMOs.
So for now, we are switching to Organic Feed from Green Mountain Feeds in Vermont. Our egg price has to increase to reflect our new costs. We will continue to look for a more local source of organic feed for our chickens, but this is the best source we have found so far.
None of our other livestock are fed grain. We have long avoided non-organic corn and soy, but with this new information will be even more attentive, and encourage others to also avoid GMOs.
Our fields aren’t quite dry enough yet for plowing, but we are definitely getting into springtime on the farm. Just the other day we were watching a male sparrow perform the “You’re so pretty, aren’t I handsome?” dance for a female sparrow (who, sorry to say, did not seem terribly impressed or interested). The killdeer have returned – and are probably waiting until I plow to select a nice new nesting spot in the middle of our field.
On the domestic animal front, a new batch of chicks arrived in the mail on Friday, we had our first lambs on Sunday, and we have a couple of new calves. We have just entered lambing season, and are expecting over thirty lambs over the next several weeks. Our goal is to have healthy animals who don’t need assistance with birthing, but even so this time of year often involves late night trips out to the barn to check on the animals. And even in the healthiest flock, sometimes a little bit of assistance is warranted to help a new lamb or calf into the world.
And on the vegetable front, the greenhouse is starting to fill up (and it’s not even April yet). Onions, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, herbs, and many other things that need an early start are already up and growing in our greenhouse. We also have started several plantings of early greens, both for transplanting into our hoophouses and into the field. We have to assume that the weather will warm up, our fields will finish thawing and dry out, and sometime, hopefully within about two weeks, I will be able to plow and prepare beds in the field for planting into. A friend of mine was plowing in Belchertown today. Our fields will take a little longer to dry out, but it seems like it won’t be too much longer this year. In the hoophouses, greens are growing, and we have been able to bring lettuce, arugula, and some other salad greens to the farmers market in Northampton for the past two weeks.
This is also the time when we need to finish up our pruning of fruit trees, before the trees bud out. And this year we are going to be grafting some more trees – our “tree kits” (as we like to call them) came today – bundles of rootstock and pieces of scionwood of many different varieties of apples, pears, plums, and cherries. Each year since we have been here we have planted some more fruit trees. Some of the first apple trees we planted just started producing last year. We have a lot of exciting heirloom apple varieties that will be starting to produce over the next several years.
We’ve got the roof put on the new farmstand! I know that several folks were worried because we didn’t get the roof framing up during the barn raising, so rest assured, we got the ridge pole up, rafters on, and metal on. Siding should be coming next week, at which point we can start to close the space in. There will still be lots of work left to do inside to get it ready for the grand opening on May 30th, but things are moving along nicely and pretty close to schedule.
Here are some pictures of the roof going on:
We are hoping to partner this year with Cricket Creek Farm in order to offer a cheese share option. Cricket Creek makes delicious farmstead cheeses in Williamstown, MA. They are a certified humane, grass-based dairy with a herd of mostly brown swiss cows.
We just went out to pick up some cheese samples from them – stop by this week to taste them!
You can find more information about their cheese csa here.
On last Sunday, the thirteenth, we put up the main part of the frame for our new farmstand. We had a good crowd of friends come out to help with the raising, and it seemed like everyone had a good time. Our friend Ray put a bunch of photos that he took up as a slideshow on youtube, which you can see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUGmDWITdOE
Rachel’s dad Barry took these: